The house is large and imposing but where once it might have been grand it is now decayed, the damp seeping through the blackened and crumbling plaster and the only remaining imposition is on the siblings who reside within, trapped by a promise to never leave each other and to never allow strangers to enter within its walls.
It is the eighteenth birthday of twins Rachel and Edward; she rises from her bed of white embroidered linen and goes to greet her brother in the gloom of the dining room where he eats porridge from the dirty table. The curtains drawn, Rachel goes to open them, but Edward says the light hurts his eyes.
Angry with his sister for falling asleep by the lake the night before, the clock already chiming midnight by the time she had fled back to the house, she has broken one of the rules by which they must live and he fears there may be a penance extracted: through her tears she must apologise to those below.
Although disliked by the villagers there is nowhere else for Rachel to obtain provisions, and by chance she encounters the shopkeeper’s son Sean, returned from the Great War, who follows her home through the woods. An unwanted caller, he is to be swiftly followed by a second with the notification of the imminent arrival of the solicitor Bermingham to discuss the desperate finances of the estate.
Directed by Let Us Prey‘s Brian O’Malley from a script by David Turpin, The Lodgers is set in rural Ireland in 1920, a community resistant to the changes elsewhere in the world and resentful of the reminders of the past in their midst, while in the crumbling house Rachel and Edward cannot move forward, trapped by the curse which has held their family prisoner for over two centuries.
As Edward, X-Men: First Class‘ Bill Milner gives a surly performance in a thankless role which requires him largely to feel sorry for himself, while American Assassin’s Charlotte Vega is by far the more interesting and developed character, Rachel is caught between the fate she has been told she cannot escape and her feelings awoken by her excursions beyond the gate, emboldened by her forbidden friendship with Sean.
An outsider himself, shunned for fighting alongside the English in the trenches of France, Game of Thrones‘ Eugene Simon is earnest as Sean, his feelings towards Rachel genuine and sympathetic, while the grouchy and conniving Bermingham does not stretch An Adventure in Space and Time‘s David Bradley in what is little more than a brief supporting role.
A blend of the squalor of a fallen family from a Dickensian ghost story and Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle with its sisters kept prisoner in their home by the villagers who hate them, The Lodgers weave a path around the dusty corridors and drapes of the house, the bare branches and leaf strewn forest paths, and always the lake where Rachel keeps returning, but foreboding images and sombre music alone are insufficient.
The narrative meandering and shapeless, the atmosphere necessary to carry the shortcomings never coalesces and nor are the characters strong enough to hold interest, and when the shallow horror does become extant it is so out of place as to be ridiculous.
A soggy tale of children bound to suffer through each generation for the sins of the previous with a damp and unconvincing backstory, The Lodgers lacks the bloody punch of O’Malley’s earlier work and is unlikely to take permanent residence in the memories or nightmares of those who have visited.